Johannesburg Blue Plaques

N through to S

NATAL BANK BUILDING PLAQUE

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Designed in 1899 by Carter & MacIntosh , this elegant late Victorian building housed the Johannesburg branch of The Natal Bank, and is in the city’s oldest existing bank building. Owndership of the Natal Bank changed several times in the 20th century, and so did the usage of this building. In the 1960s it was used as a rehearsal space for the Bank Players, and in 1988 it became The First National Bank Museum. It was from here that Neil Fraser of the Central Johannesburg Partnership championed the regeneration of the historic inner city in the 2000s.

NATIONAL UNION OF MINE WORKERS (Formerly HUDACO HOUSE) PLAQUE

Rissik Street, Johannesburg

Black mineworkers were involved in gold mining in Johannesburg from 1886, but were excluded from the trade unions by white miners and later by apartheid laws, so it was only in December 1982 that the National Union of Mineworkers was formed. This building was constructed in 1934 for Hubert Davies and Company which imported, manufactured and installed engineering equipment and machinery for industry and the mines throughout Southern Africa. Founded in 1894 by J Hubert Davies, a consulting engineer from Scotland who had come to the Rand in1889, the company’s first big projects were the electrification of various mines.

NEWCLARE PRIMARY SCHOOL PLAQUE

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Established in 1908 by the Founders’ Memorial Congregational Church with only nine pupils and expanded in 1913, this dual medium school was the first in the Transvaal for coloured children. It was taken over by the government in 1917. By 1960 it was the biggest school in South Africa. With a staff of 64 teachers the principal, CJ Botha, ran a platoon system of two sessions a day.

NOORDHOEK PLAQUE

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ONDERKOPPIES PLAQUE

 

22 Oxford Road

Albert Victor Lindbergh, co-founder in 1892 of the Central News Agency (CNA) bought Marienhof in 1916 and changed the German name. CNA was the first distributor of newspapers in Southern Africa and expanded into selling books and publishing school textbooks as well as the works of South African writers. After her husband’s death in1939, Gladys Lindbergh continued living here until 1969 when her house was expropriated and demolished for the motorway. Parts of the stone garden walls and entrance gates remain.

ORLANDO SWIMMING POOL PLAQUE

 

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The Plaque to Trevor Huddleston was unveiled by Roseinnes Phale who had known Father Huddleston as a boarder at St Peter’s School.

PETER VUNDLA PLAQUE

 

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PHEFENI JUNIOR SECONDARY SCHOOL PLAQUE

7340 Vilakazi Street, Orlando West, Soweto

In May 1976 learners at Phefeni Junior began boycotting classes in protest at the imposition of Afrikaans as amedium of instruction. Protests spread to Belle Primary, Thulasizwe Higher Primary, Emthonjeni and Khulangolwazi Higher Primary School. On June 16 all schools were to pass via Phefeni Junior en route to the destination of the march. It was near Phefeni Junior that police vegan shooting and using teargas against students

PHOENIX MANSIONS PLAQUE

 

Parklane

Designed by P Hill Mitchelson as upmarket flats in 1928 and named Hyde Park Mansions the property was bought in 1963 by Dr Jack Penn who used one floor as his own home and the remaining units for nursing staff of the Brenthurst Clinic. A plastic surgeon whose autobiography “The Right to Look Human” expressed his dedication, Penn renamed the building after the mythical bird which rises again from its own ashes, the symbol of reconstructive surgery.

PROSPECT TERRACE PLAQUE

Cyrildene
35 The Valley Road, Parktown

Frank Emley designed this home in 1913 for Henry Melville Taberer, a keen cricketer who headed the Native Labour Board. The house is in the Arts and Crafts idiom, expressing the philosophy of William Morris and repeating elements from his Red House. In 1937 Dr Bernard Friedman M.P. bought it. He was an ear, nose and throat surgeon and a founder of the Progressive Party. In 1986 it became the home of Dr Johan  van der Wat and family. Like his father, he became a prominent gynaecologist. In 1986, he was a member of the team that pioneered the world’s first mother/daughter surrogate triplet pregnancy.

RANDJESLAAGTE BEACON PLAQUE

Boundary Road, Parktown

When Johannesburg was proclaimed in 1886 on the triangular site Randjeslaagte the area of the town was nine square km. Randjeslaagte was a piece of ‘uitvalgrond’ – land left over from the farms surveyed around it, which was not considered suitable for farming. The beacon marks the apex of the triangle with its base running along Commissioner Street, from End Street in the East to Ntembi Pilisio Street in the West. This nine square km. remained the municipal area of Johannesburg until 1901. The original surveyor’s beacon was a white pole fixed in a cairn of rock and concrete. It was declared a national monument in 1965 and the cairn smoothed with cement.

RAND STEAM PLAQUE

 

Napier Road, Richmond

Acquired by a new property consortium, the Rand Steam Joint Venture, the lead developers were a partnership between The Moolman Group and Jonker Evolution, who embraced and effected the reconstruction or the original buildings of the Rand Steam Laundries to their former state. The very first laundry was a wash site located on the rocks and in the small stream known as the Gasworks Spruit where Zulu entrepeneurs washed the clothes of the inhabitants of the dusty mining town from 1887. Laundry requires very soft water and soon the Rand Steam Laundry and Palace Laundry sprang up along Napier Road, eventually uniting to establish the highly successful Rand Steam Laundries, which closed in 1962. Craftsmen and small businesses used the site for the 40 years.

RAND STEAM LAUNDRIES PLAQUE

Napier Road, Richmond

April 2019 marks the reconstruction of the historic buildings demolished in 2008 without permission and in contravention of the Provisional Declaration of the site by the Provincial Heritage Resources Authority of Gauteng. In the absense of official sanction or prosecution, it fell to the residents’ associations and the Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust (now the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation), to hold the site frozen for nearly 10 years whilst negotiations proceeded with the previous owners to rezone the property subject to the reconstruction of the buildings along Napier Road.

RIDGEHOLME PLAQUE

 

3 Junction Avenue

Designed by Percival Hill Mitchelson for Mr and Mrs Gregory in 1913 this attractive and deceptively asymmetrical house with its contrasting red brick and white trim has large bay windows and a broad veranda which enticing residents and guests into the garden. Mr. Gregory was the Messenger of the Court. He and his wife lived here until 1931 when Mrs AL Golding purchased the property.  It was bought by the Municipality in 1970 to be demolished for the M6 motorway, but fortunately was leased to the Children’s Theatre instead.

RODEAN PLAQUE

 

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ROSEBANK TELEPHONE EXCHANGE PLAQUE

 

167 Oxford Road, Rosebank

In 1924 Rosebank was identified as a test site for a new telephone exchange that was established here. The small building was substantially enlarged in the 1930’s when the exchange was extended to cover the north and western areas of the City. Later it housed the Saxonwold Post Office. The building was unoccupied between 1995 and 2005 and was then converted into a boutique hotel, retaining the original facade, which is reminiscent of the 18th Century Cape Townhouse architecture

S.A. MUTUAL BUILDINGS PLAQUE

 

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This fine office block was designed in 1935 by Stucke, Harrison & Smail for the South African Mutual Life Assurance Society (now Old Mutual) and served as its Johannesburg headquarters for over fifty years. The fine bronze lamps, and the brass fittings for doors and lifts were made in Johannesburg by Frederick Sage and Co. and adorned the impressive banking hall on the ground floor. They are worthy echoes of the Rockefeller Centre in New York. A special Act of Parliament exempted the Mutual Assurance from taxation levied on banks and building societies. 

S.A. PERM PLAQUE

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Designed in 1937 by Stucke, Harrison & Smail for the South African Permanent Mutual Building Society, the large span structure necessitated a heavy perforated beam above the grand space of the banking hall. This carried the massive weight of the eleven levels above. The curvilinear corners, emphasised by the horizontal bands of green and pink terrazzo, are reminiscent of the German architect, Mendelsohn. It was the first building in the city centre to have underground parking. The original double volume brass and glass entrance screen on the corner and doorway gave a sense of lightness and welcome to clients, without detracting from the gravitas conveyed by the polished black granite.

SACRED HEART COLLEGE PLAQUE

15 Eckstein Street, Observatory

SANDTON: WILHELMI HOUSE PLAQUE

 

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Built in 1906 on portion of the farm Driefontein, this farmhouse accurately reflects the turn-of-the-century rural lifestyle. Adolf and Elsa Wilhelmi arrived from Germany in 1891, driven by a sense of adventure, They settled in this area and supplied the young growing mining town with fresh farm produce. At the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War, Adolf joined the Boer Commandos, was imprisoned and faced internment. He returned to Germany instead. When war ended he returned to Driefontein and built this house.

SETH MAZIBUKO HOUSE PLAQUE

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This site has been a base for planning struggles against apartheid. It remained under surveillance by the Security Branch during and after June 1976. It was here that Seth Mazibuko , the youngest member of the Student Action Committee, was arrested in July 1976, aged just sixteen. He was held in solitary confinement for 11 months in Number Four at the Fort Prison, in Braamfontein. Seth was then charged, tried and sent to Robben Island for seven years where he completed his matric in English and obtained his B. Ed. Degree.

 

SMIT STREET COMPOUND PLAQUE

Smit Street Compound

The first municipal accommodation for black migrant workers in the Town Engineers Department was in V-shaped sheds erected in 1906. The compound was constructed in 1908 to house 1000 men, mostly sanitary workerswho removed the soil in the buckets. The Bucket Strike in 1918 saw these men sentenced to work at gunpoint and without pay. In 1998 the compound was adapted for use by the disabled in wheelchairs, who were soon joined by the deaf, the blind and those with epilepsy.

VESTA SMITH PLAQUE

282 Smith Street, Noordgesig 

 

ST JOSEPH'S CHILDRENS HOME PLAQUE

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Buildings on this property are among the few from old Sophiatown which escaped destruction during the forced removals of 1955-1960. St Joseph’s Home for Coloured Children was built as a memorial to “Coloured” men who lost their lives in the First World War. The Home opened its doors in 1923. It was run by the Anglican Nuns, the Order of St. Margaret, East Grinstead who remained in charge until 1978 when they left South Africa in protest against apartheid. The Main Block, Boys’ House and Priests’ House were designed by the diocesan architect F.L.H. Fleming. The Church successfully opposed removal of the Home because the property was on farm land and not part of a proclaimed township.

SANDTON: WILHELMI HOUSE PLAQUE

 

Address

Built in 1906 on portion of the farm Driefontein, this farmhouse accurately reflects the turn-of-the-century rural lifestyle. Adolf and Elsa Wilhelmi arrived from Germany in 1891, driven by a sense of adventure, They settled in this area and supplied the young growing mining town with fresh farm produce. At the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War, Adolf joined the Boer Commandos, was imprisoned and faced internment. He returned to Germany instead. When war ended he returned to Driefontein and built this house.

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